Self-leadership is important to success, but many of us don’t know what being a self-leader means. For a few years after graduating from college, I was lost. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I was rudderless, making poor decisions, and looking for direction. One particularly hard day, I called a friend in tears, venting about my uninspiring job and the mess I was making of my life. At the end of my emotional outburst, he said, “You’re right; your life is a mess. What are you going to do about it?”
“I don’t have a clue!” I said. “I am clearly incapable of making good decisions. Just tell me what you think I should do, and I’ll do it!”
“No,” he responded. “It’s not up to me to figure it out for you; that’s your responsibility. What are you going to do about it?”
At that moment, I was looking for someone else to figure out my problems. I was willing to give up my power to let someone else lead me. Luckily, my friend’s directness inspired me to take charge of my life and be a self-leader.
Unfortunately, this “tell me what to do” type of thinking is common, especially in the workplace. We spend our time figuring out who’s the boss, what will make him or her happy, and who we can blame if something goes wrong. We don’t see ourselves as leaders and wait for others to give direction. And then we blame our leaders when we aren’t happy.
What if you chose something different? What if you looked in the mirror before passing the buck? What if you were a self-leader?
Self-leadership is owning your decisions, mistakes, attitude, and the stories you tell yourself. It combines self-awareness, self-management, and how you show up in your relationships. It’s how you choose to be heard, give and receive feedback, take the initiative, and be your best. It’s how your lead yourself.
Even if you don’t have a leadership title, you can excel at self-leadership. Here are some tips.
Be Curious, Ask Questions, and Always Learn
Curious people want to understand how the world works beyond their experience, so they naturally ask more questions. Questioning opens doors, giving them an advantage over those who are less curious. Asking good questions positions them to learn how to do a job better, faster, and more creatively.
Create a System for Success
Without a system, you’ll be a rudderless ship, too. A success system includes a vision of what you want in life, clearly defined goals, healthy habits, and a plan. This framework will help you stay focused, prioritize what’s most important, and consider tradeoffs.
Self-empowerment is deciding that you are responsible for yourself, no matter what. Reflect on your decisions and make different ones if you aren’t happy. Be a force of positivity rather than one of negativity and toxicity. When you are misunderstood or say something thoughtless, own your communication style and work to improve it. Manage and regulate your emotions to minimize outbursts that can damage relationships.
Keep it Real and Be Candid
Your thoughts and feelings matter; you will best direct your life when you are open and honest, so speak up. Commit to giving direct feedback. It may be more comfortable to keep it to yourself or let your boss deal with it but being direct with those around you creates the opportunity to affect positive change. Don’t talk about others behind their backs. A good rule of thumb: if you haven’t said it to the person you are venting about, don’t say it to someone else.
Raise Your Hand and Work Hard
Don’t wait for assignments; raise your hand and volunteer. Make suggestions for improvement. Get outside your comfort zone; challenge yourself by learning new skills. Don’t settle for mediocracy; commit to working hard and creating excellent outcomes.
Take Care of Yourself
Money unequivocally influences your actions or inactions; therefore, understanding your finances is crucial to self-leadership. Additionally, diet and physical fitness impact every emotion, thought, action and outcome. What you put in your body and how you move it directly affects your brain chemistry which determines your moods, energy, and the ability to get important work done.
Self-leadership is essential to success. Be brave! Send your excuses packing and embrace leading yourself.
Like this? Check out my blog on why you should go the extra mile.